Appeals Court Upholds Judgment Against Pediatrician, But Tosses Case Against Hospital in Infant Malpractice Case

A family who lost their infant child at only nine days of age received a partial legal victory recently in the Louisiana Court of Appeal pertaining to their medical malpractice case against a Slidell hospital and a pediatrician. The appeals court decided that a lower court judgment against the doctor could stand, but that the hospital was not liable in the child’s death because the family’s expert witness failed to testify regarding how the hospital staff’s missteps caused the child’s fatal injury.

The case regarded the treatment of Alex Ducre Jr. at Slidell Memorial Hospital. The child was born at the hospital roughly four weeks prematurely. Although the child initially appeared healthy, he began showing signs of mild jaundice around 36 hours after birth. The child’s pediatrician, Phyllis Waring, nevertheless discharged him the following morning. Three days later, the mother telephoned the hospital because the child showed worsening signs of jaundice. The nurse on the phone told the mother simply to bring the child to the hospital the next day for a regularly scheduled lactation appointment.

By the time the child arrived at the hospital, he was lethargic, and had poor muscle tone with yellow skin and yellowing in the whites of his eyes. The hospital admitted the baby to the pediatric intensive care unit. The child’s condition deteriorated and he died three days later.

The parents sued Dr. Waring and the hospital for malpractice. The trial court judge found both the doctor and the hospital liable and awarded each of the father, mother and estate of the child $50,000.

On appeal, the Louisiana Court of Appeal rejected the doctor’s argument that the trial court should not have sided with the family’s medical expert witness over hers because her experts were more qualified. The appeals court explained that the question was not whose expert had the more impressive resume, but whether or not a party provided credible expert testimony from a qualified expert witness. The court concluded that the family’s expert’s credentials established that he clearly was qualified and he offered a viable opinion regarding how the doctor erred and how those breaches caused the harm to the baby. As long as both sides present qualified experts, the jury (or trial court judge in a bench trial) is generally free to determine which expert testimony it finds more persuasive. Siding with the family’s medical expert was not improper in this case.

However, the court sided with the hospital on the facility’s liability. Although the family’s expert witness testified that the hospital’s nurses breached the standard of care by failing to report the baby’s early signs of jaundice and elevated respiration, he failed to explain how these failures caused or contributed to the baby’s harm. A successful malpractice claim requires the victim to show not only that the medical provider failed to meet the proper standard of care, but also that this deficiency caused the victim’s injuries. Because the family expert witness did not provide this linkage, their case lacked the required causation element needed to hold the hospital liable.

The loss of a new life is always tragic, never more so than when it occurs as a result of medical provider’s failure to provide proper care. Although the parents in the Ducre case were able to maintain the successful verdict regarding their son’s pediatrician, the judgment against the hospital fell short because of a shortage of evidence on one of the fundamental components of a malpractice case. If you’ve been injured as a result of medical malpractice, contact the Louisiana malpractice attorneys at the Cardone Law Firm. We can help you understand what you need to succeed in your case and also provide the quality representation you deserve as you pursue your recovery for the damages your family has suffered.

For your confidential consultation contact us online or phone Cardone at 504-522-3333.

More Blog Posts:

Failure to Diagnose Pregnancy Leads to Invasive Emergency Surgery, According to Patient’s Lawsuit, Louisiana Injury Lawyers Blog, Nov. 9, 2013
Overlooked Surgical Sponge Leads to Injury, Lawsuit in Louisiana, Louisiana Injury Lawyers Blog, Sept. 17, 2013

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